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We may have had a milder-than-usual winter, but residents of Northeast Tennessee know that spring does not officially arrive until we can begin to look forward to the annual Spring Garden Fair at Exchange Place Living History Farm. So put on your best plantin’ duds, because the oldest garden fair in our region — this will be its 33rd consecutive year! — will be held on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday, April 30, from noon until 5 p.m., at the 1850s farmstead located at 4812 Orebank Road in Kingsport.

A true celebration of heritage farming and heirloom gardening, the Spring Garden Fair is a favorite of area gardeners, from novice to expert, with offerings that include rare and hard-to-find plants as well as tried-and-true favorites. Thousands of plants will be for sale — perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs — with the emphasis on herbs, native and heirloom plants including a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes. Folk and yard artisans will be selling their wares as well.

This year the festival is adding a very special gardening event. The UT Extension Master Gardener Class will sponsor the Back-Porch Garden Sale, inside the Roseland building, where folks will be able to find all kinds of new and used garden items for sale, including pots, hypertufa containers, plants, gardening magazines, books and much more. Need advice to make your yard look beautiful? The Master Gardeners will be on hand at their Plant Clinic/Information table to answer your questions. Experts will offer information about the Perennial Plant of the Year, Asciepias tuberosa, more commonly known as the Butterfly Weed. And there will also be projects and activities on the Back Porch for children to make and take.

Throughout the weekend, craftspeople and volunteers will demonstrate springtime activities typically
 found on a nineteenth-century farm. Over by the Roseland-side
barn,  the Overmountain Weavers Guild continues their long tradition of “Sheep to Shawl,” where they card (clean, separate and straighten) our sheep’s wool, spin it into yarn and weave the yarn into cloth — all within hours. This year, the weavers plan to make a scarf on Saturday, while the popular shearing of the sheep will take place on Saturday at 1:00 pm and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Across the road on the historic farm side of Exchange Place, the hearth kitchen will be filled with wonderful aromas as the Eden’s Ridge Hearth Cookery Society churns butter on Saturday, and then prepares spring tansies (puddings) and seasonal vegetables on Sunday. Our Junior Apprentices, meanwhile, will be in the garden offering insights into our heirloom plants. The blacksmith’s shop will be active all weekend as Will Vogt from Graysburg Forge and Catherine Shook, a recent graduate of the John C. Campbell Folk School, will demonstrate the importance of a blacksmith on an antebellum farm.

A wide variety of hands-on children’s activities will be found all around the farmstead, and your young’uns will certainly want to say hello to our resident animals, including Delilah (our cow), Jenny (our donkey), and our three horses, plus our sheep and Guinea hogs.

Two other popular features of the Garden Fair will be back again. Retired World Champion Whimmy Diddler Will Hines of Greeneville will be on hand to direct the 8th Annual Edens Ridge Whimmy Diddle Competition at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Open to all ages, Mr. Hines and others will be under the main tent, just a few yards away from the Preston House, starting at 2 p.m., to offer valuable pointers and practice time prior to the contest, in which the winners will receive trophies made by local woodworker Gary Albertson. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Linda Doan will be leading a Maypole decoration and dance. Brought to this country by our European ancestors, it is a traditional and colorful celebration of spring.

Music fills the air during the Spring Garden Fair. A smorgasbord of local talent is scheduled to perform throughout the weekend; a complete schedule is listed below. (Please note, however, that it is always subject to last-minute changes.) And don’t worry, if you get hungry or thirsty, baked goods, lunch, drinks and snacks (including the ever-popular kettle corn!) will be available.

The Spring Garden Fair strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible with recycling, composting, and re-using. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own plant carriers and to bring used nursery pots for recycling/reusing. To help gardeners reduce runoff and save water, Rain Barrel Kits will be available once again for $40 (check or cash), as long as supplies last. The 55-gallon food-grade plastic barrels (which can easily be painted) are already fully assembled and ready to go home with you and begin collecting rainwater.

Admission is $3 for adults and is free for children under the age of 12. Proceeds from the event helps keep our animals fed and with the restoration and upkeep of the site, which is proudly listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Exchange Place is a non-profit, volunteer-run living history farm, educational facility and regional attraction that seeks to preserve, protect, interpret, and manage the history, heritage, and artifacts pertaining to mid-19th century farm life in Northeast Tennessee. For more information, please call 423-288-6071, or visit www.exchangeplace.info.

MUSIC SCHEDULE
SATURDAY, APRIL 29 TIMES SUNDAY, APRIL 30
KINGSPORT COMMUNITY BAND 10 – 11 a.m. {gates open today at noon}
BALL SISTERS BAND 11 am – 12 noon {gates open today at noon}
THE HONEYCUTTS 12 noon – 1 p.m. RENAISSANCE STRINGS
TENNESSEE BORDER 1 – 2 p.m. STRAWBERRY JAM
APPALACHIAN EXPRESS CHORUS and SWEET ADELINESS 2 – 3 p.m. WHIMMY DIDDLE SIGN-UP AND PRACTICE
CHARLOTTE AND ART ELLIS 3 – 4 p.m. WHIMMY DIDDLE COMPETITION
STATE STREET STRING BAND 4 – 5 p.m.